Fun in the Sun: Tampa’s Spectacular Beaches
Here are some standouts among the more than a dozen beaches in the area.
Longing to dig your toes into soft white sand or lounge on the beach with a tall, cool drink? With the ocean’s siren call and the tranquil beauty of white, sand and turquoise waters, Tampa Bay beaches will reel you in. Here are some standouts among the more than a dozen beaches in the area.
Frequently ranked the No. 1 beach in the U.S., Clearwater Beach boasts 2.5 miles of soft, white sand. Paddleboard, jet-ski, parasail, charter a fishing boat, or take a “pirate ship” cruise. Landlubbers can walk, cycle or roller blade the broad promenade. Restaurants, bars and shops line the beach. Just a mile away, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is home to Winter, the dolphin featured in “Dolphin Tales.”
Before the sun sets, head to Pier 60, where the nightly Sunset at Pier 60 Festival features artisans, street performers and live music. Weekends include family-friendly movies on the beach.
Every April, the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival attracts over 200,000 visitors to its 17-day display of extraordinary sand sculptures. This year’s event runs April 10-26. Entertainment includes live music, Ferris wheel, fireworks, a giant kids’ sandbox, a beach bar and more.
Always popular, Clearwater Beach is at its most packed during spring break, especially near Pier 60. North Clearwater Beach offers a quieter scene for non-revelers.
HONEYMOON ISLAND STATE PARK
A 1921 hurricane split Hog Island in two, creating Caladesi and Honeymoon islands. Named Florida’s most popular state park, Honeymoon Island has almost 4 miles of white sand beaches. Enjoy surf and pass fishing for flounder, snook, trout, snapper and tarpon. Bird lovers can often spot osprey, pelicans and other species. Your canine companion is welcome at the dog park and on leash on nature trails.
For the next best thing to having your own private beach, take the ferry from Honeymoon Island (no dogs allowed) to Caladesi Island State Park for a more secluded experience. Follow the nature trail to the historic Scharrer Homestead, paddle through a large mangrove forest, fish, swim, and explore the gorgeous island. A marina with floating docks is available for boat camping.
Both island parks offer canoe, kayak and bike rentals, a snack bar and gift shop, restrooms and showers, picnic areas with grills, and playgrounds. Alcohol consumption is prohibited except during park-sanctioned events.
ST. PETE BEACH
Named the No. 4 beach in the U.S. in 2019, St. Pete Beach boasts a full array of recreational options and a laid-back vibe. Check out the massive, historic Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa, a luxury hotel dubbed the Pink Palace. Explore the shops, galleries and restaurants of the downtown Corey Avenue district. The Corey Avenue Sunday market, open through May, tempts with fresh produce, gourmet treats, crafts and live music. End your evening at Harry’s Beach Bar, St. Pete Beach’s oldest beach bar.
On the south end of St. Pete Beach, historic Pass-a-Grille town and beach provides quaint, Old-Florida charm with plenty of boutiques, an outdoor art market, restaurants, rooftop bars and fishing piers.
According to legend, pirate John LeVique was the first European to settle Madeira Beach. He found treasure in the 2 miles of beautiful shoreline and spectacular sunsets. Today’s marauders—er, visitors—can explore water sports, birding, deep-sea fishing, and sightseeing cruises.
Be sure to stroll down to Johns Pass Village and Boardwalk, a quaint fishing village-turned-tourist-mecca along a waterfront boardwalk. Browse more than 130 shops and restaurants. Dine on fresh-caught grouper, a local specialty.
FORT DE SOTO PARK
Pinellas County’s largest park consists of five interconnected islands/keys rich in mangroves, hardwoods, wetlands and over 328 species of birds. Rent bikes, kayaks and canoes to explore 7 miles of waterfront, including nearly 3 miles of white sand beaches. A dog park includes beach access.
Carve out time to visit the Quartermaster Storehouse Museum, which preserves and displays Fort de Soto’s more than century-old history as a military post.
FRED HOWARD PARK BEACH AND NATURE PRESERVE
Look for nesting ospreys, eagles, dolphins and manatees at Fred Howard Park Beach and Nature Preserve. Select from plenty of water activities, including windsurfing. Amenities include picnic areas and playgrounds.
Unique to the park is its proximity to Tarpon Springs, known for its century-old sponge industry and docks. The town also has the largest percentage of Greek Americans in the U.S.
BEN T. DAVIS BEACH
Can’t get away from the city? Visit popular Davis Beach, the closest city beach to downtown. It features a dog park with off-leash beach access and is adjacent to the 4-mile Courtney Campbell Trail.
So many beautiful beaches to explore—too many to mention here—you’ll be tempted to return again and again to explore them all. It’s a worthy endeavor, one we heartily recommend!